Early in our marriage, my husband and I liquidated or stored most of our meager belongings, hopped a plane, and landed in one of the beigest places we’d ever seen. We set out on our first adventure together — teaching at an international school in Aleppo, Syria (known regionally as Halab).
I want to share with you what that was like. I want to remember what it was like. There is virtually nothing else I can do to help Aleppo today, other than prompt you to think about it, about the very real people who are trying to survive there, who are dying there, who are burying their dead there.
My 9 year-old son, Reed, still asks me that at bedtime. It’s at the part of the day when I just want to open up my computer and finish that post, respond to that email, look up that fact I was wondering about earlier. In other words, I’m ready to be off duty for the day.
The voice of my dad, he of the oft-repeated Dadisms, speaks softly but powerfully in my head: Love your interruptions.
I take a deep breath this night and put down the laptop, deciding to make my son’s question not an interruption but, instead, a gift.
We read a few pages of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I declare it’s time for lights out. He pulls out his iPod and says he wants to play a song for me. I curl my body around his while he finds the song.
It’s one we’ve both been singing loudly in the car whenever it comes on the radio. It’s a catchy tune and I’ve been known to crank up the music for the kids and me to sing along as loudly as we can. It’s become our anthem for us this winter. The song is, at its core, about resilience and relying on people close to you.
May your past be the sound Of your feet upon the ground Carry on
There are some songs, when they come on the radio, that transport me to another place and time. I’m sure you have some, too. The first song I slow-danced to at the junior-high Sadie Hawkins dance. The first time a boy told me he loved me, via Commodores lyrics. Any song on the mix-tape that my husband gave me shortly after we met. Your whole being goes there — your mind, your emotions, your body. You are, instantly, 14 again, 17 again, 30 again.
I know that this song, this Winter 2012/13 anthem, will forever take Reed back to the sensations and emotions we share this night, cuddled in his bed, sharing an intimate, loving, resonant perfect moment. When he’s a teenager at college, when he first gets his own apartment, when he’s a new dad, heck, when he’s a grandfather (there I go, time traveling again), whenever he hears this song, he will feel warm, happy, loved through and through.
That thought makes me supremely happy that I chose to love this interruption.
Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.
On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.
Over Thanksgiving weekend Roger and I took the kids for a day in downtown Denver. We started out by throwing a football around at Civic Center Park on a gorgeous and sunny late-morning (Reed’s pick). At Tessa’s urging we then we switched to a volleyball, counting to see how many volleys we could get in a row (the mom may or may not be the weak link in that scenario).
Roger got to pick the restaurant where we had a yummy and healthy lunch, and then it was Mama’s turn to choose a place.
We walked to the new History Colorado Center, paid our admission and spent hours learning about life in Colorado in earlier decades. There were dozens of interactive exhibits, engaging for both kids and adults. Tessa and Reed got to drive a Model T and work in a town’s general store. We rode down a mine shaft and learned how to plant and detonate dynamite. We heard a storyteller recount her summers at Lincoln Hills, “the country’s only western resort accessible to African-Americans.” We tried ski jumping down a mountain (I made it 300 feet once but crashed and burned the second time).
But the funnest (and funniest) part was when we had our pictures taken for a 1920s yearbook in the Colorado plains town of Keota. These silly photos sealed the awesomeness into our day.
Did I gain two children? Nope. Reed snapped three photos, each of them wackier than the last. Even if I were in the worst mood in the world, one look at these mementos (especially my second “daughter”) would curl up the sides of my mouth. In fact I’m laughing quite hard as I type this last word!
But why, you might ask, why would I want to go back to this:
I’m 17. I’m with the band.
This photo (no shocker that it was my entry into Edenland’s Dork Olympics many years ago) was taken one autumn during my high school years. I was a proud member of the marching band, we of the ridiculously hot and unfashionable uniforms and the furry hats designed by Coneheads from France. I played the piccolo — it was the lightest instrument of all and you could always hear my part. I was a squad captain and a serial dater* of members of the drum section. Band was my social group. Yes, we were super-nerds, but we were super-nerds together.
My high school is now in its 50th year, and to celebrate, the current marching band director invited all band alumnae to play last week at the Homecoming game under the Friday night lights.
It was cold, drizzly and miserable — a 40 degree drop from the temperatures the day before. I almost didn’t go. Would I know anyone? Would I recognize anyone? Could I still play? Would the whole thing bore my children?
Luckily, come Friday afternoon my friend DeDe, a flautist, made me hold up my earlier invitation that we go together. I no longer had a stylin’ hat but I still had my piccolo, my mad Star Spangled Anthem skillz, and a love of wearing the purple. Roger and Reed enjoyed the football game and Tessa enjoyed hanging out with the high school teenagers who were warm and welcoming to we old-timers.
Our friend and brass player Ralph joined for this photo, taken by Tessa.
Longtime readers know I like to time travel. And as I played the school fight song and closed my eyes, I was in two places at once. I was a fresh-faced 17 year-old who hadn’t dealt with any real tribulation (but who considered an ill-placed zit a MAJOR TRAGEDY!) and who was chomping at the bit for independence, yet fearing it. I was also a middle-aged mom breathing in the cold night air and giving thanks for the paths my life had taken.
I looked at the current generation of marching band members — fresh-faced kids — and could see that they were in for many of the experiences that people in my class had faced since we were last high-stepping on the field. Some would find satisfying careers and some would be stunted job-wise. Some would age well and others not so much. Some would face loss, cancer, widdowhood, tragedy, sadness, and death. Some would revel in children, grandchildren, accomplishments and triumph. Their paths would be a curious combination of luck and effort, of making things happen and of letting things happen.
Just like mine has been. And continues to be.
* By “dater” I mean that I had a crush on one drummer or another, mostly unrequited.